Someone forgot to tell the Florida Gators (4-6, 3-5 SEC East) they were supposed to get their doors blown off by 10th-ranked South Carolina (8-2, 6-2 SEC East). The Gators didn’t find a rabbit in the hat to spring the upset but they made life most uncomfortable for the sellout crowd at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia. South Carolina rallied from a 14-6 halftime deficit to take a 19-14 win, but it was anything but easy.
The injury-depleted Gators were down to their third string quarterback in redshirt freshman Skyler Mornhinweg, but the offense showed signs of life, particularly in the first half when the Gators set the tone for a tough battle that wouldn’t be decided until late in the fourth quarter. Florida scored touchdowns on its first two possessions and took a 14-6 lead at the half. The Gators had their chances in the second half, but couldn’t punch in a touchdown in the red zone in the third quarter and that proved costly.
The Gators will face Georgia Southern at The Swamp next Saturday, while South Carolina will face Coastal Carolina. The Gamecocks can win the SEC East championship if Missouri loses one of its remaining games against Ole Miss or Texas A&M.
SOUTH CAROLINA 3, FLORIDA 0: As usual, it was a slow start for the Florida defense as the Gamecocks marched the ball down the field with ease until they got in the red zone. The big plays came on a 39-yard connection from Connor Shaw to Damiere Byrd and a 23-yard rush from Mike Davis. With the field shrunken, the Gamecocks were unable to do anything else with Ronald Powell ending the threat of a touchdown with a third down sack. Elliott Fry made a 25-yard field goal with 10:21 left in the quarter to end a 10-play, 70-yard drive.
FLORIDA 7, SOUTH CAROLINA 3: The Gators countered with a touchdown on their opening drive with redshirt freshman Skyler Mornhinweg under center replacing injured Tyler Murphy. Florida stuck to the ground for 10 of the 11 plays on this scoring drive. A 25-yard run by Valdez Showers was the key play on the drive, setting up a 20-yard touchdown run by Kelvin Taylor with 3:03 left in the first quarter to cap a 67-yard drive.
SOUTH CAROLINA 6, FLORIDA 7: A costly pass interference penalty on Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves set up a 23-yard pass from Connor Shaw to tight end Rory Anderson two plays later. The Gamecocks gained onlytwo more yards on the drive and settled for a 45-yard Elliott Fry field goal with 14:04 left in the half, putting an end to a nine-play, 57-yard drive.
FLORIDA 14, SOUTH CAROLINA 6: Again the Gators answered a South Carolina scoring drive with a touchdown. On the first play of the series, Mack Brown rumbled 32 yards and five plays later Taylor had his second touchdown of the day when he ran 29 punishing yards for the score with 10:51 left in the half, ending a six-play, 75-yard drive.
Kelvin Taylor: 13-86 rushing, two touchdowns.
Mack Brown: 4-44 rushing.
Valdez Showers: 2-31 rushing.
THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY
1. KELVIN TAYLOR: Taylor came out ready to go for the Gators, carrying the ball 13 times for 86 yards and two scores. That’s a 6.6 yard-per-carry average. Brent Pease also dialed up some nice play calling with Taylor getting snaps from the diamond personnel set. Taylor’s 86 rushing yards in the first half were the most of any UF running back dating back to Matt Jones rushing for 176 against Kentucky.
2. FLORIDA’S OFFENSE: The Gators scored points on their opening drive for the first time since the first drive of the season against Toledo and they scored points on back-to-back drives for the first time since the Arkansas game.
3. INTENSITY: The Gators came out ready to play. They were hyped but still stayed focused and executed the gameplan well in the first 30 minutes.
The Bad: The defense started on the field for the fourth consecutive game and for the fourth time (2TD, 2FG) they allowed the other team to score on its opening drive. The defense played a bend but don’t break style, holding South Carolina to a field goal attempt but it would be nice to see the defense start with a three-and-out or a stop when they are given the opportunity to start the game on the field.
The Ugly: Johnny Townsend’s one and only punt in the half was a 33-yard duck that set up the Gamecocks with good field position on Florida’s side of the field to start their drive.
SOUTH CAROLINA 13, FLORIDA 14: Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier decided to pound the ball with five straight run plays. Then Shaw threw an incompletion that should have been a touchdown on a third down play. The head ball coach is a gambling man though, going for it on fourth down. It paid off when Shaw found Bruce Ellington for a 32-yard touchdown pass to finish off a seven-play, 64-yard drive with 10:23 left in the third quarter.
SOUTH CAROLINA 16, FLORIDA 14: The Gamecocks took the lead for good on a drive that featured two of the biggest plays of the game. In the shadow of his own goalposts, Shon Carson sprinted 58 yards up the gut on a draw play to give the Gamecocks great field position. Next Shaw threw a ball that was slightly underthrown to tight end Rory Anderson, but Anderson made an impressive adjustment catching the ball around the body of Florida linebacker Neiron Ball for a 34-yard gain. After a controversial incompletion in the end zone to receiver Shaq Roland was reviewed and upheld, the Gamecocks again kicked a field goal. The 22-yard Fry kick ended the drive that took 8-plays to span 87 yards with 6:43 remaining in the fourth quarter.
SOUTH CAROLINA 19, FLORIDA 14: After one of the more unique fourth down conversion attempts by Florida in recent memory the Gamecocks began their drive inside the 50-yard line. They were unable to do anything though, and Fry kicked a 43-yard field goal with 2:16 remaining to complete the scoring.
The Good: The Gators could have very easily laid an egg this week. South Carolina was a two-touchdown favorite but the Gators hung in there and played their tails off for 60 minutes.
The Bad: A holding penalty on a third and three forced the Gators to gamble on a fourth down play.
The Ugly:. Austin Hardin’s missed 32-yard field goal. That’s a chip shot but it went wide right. He has missed his last three field goals and and is only 4-11 this season.